Copyright 2001 R. Christina Lea. All rights reserved. CLICK HERE to return.

Its Own Place (intro only)

Things like this don't happen in the daytime. The light of the Sun on a sane, visible world is supposed to protect us, to shield us from the caustic whispers of fear as surely as the strongest magic. Even in the most isolated wilderness, the glory of a loving god's creation surrounds us irrefutably, making plain the fact that there are no twisted claws in the branches, no spider-fanged things lurking in the shadows ahead.

In the night, this would have made more sense. There, we have only the assumption that the world will be what it was in the daylight. There, we have only faith.

I first lost sight of day - I first remember losing sight of day - when I opened the door to my hotel room in Chicago. I was there with one of our salesmen, Rick Tulley, talking to the network administrator of the Global Now! (yes, the exclamation mark is really part of the name) packing company.

"Think of this as a total quality solution, a TQS, if you will," Tulley interjected with a big whorish smile that said he was the one to talk to, not a silly technobabbler like me. Tulley inhaled again, dragging our perfectly good air into whatever squirmed behind that protuberant gut and transforming it into another vacuous slogan. The Global rep, Cal something, interrupted him before the noxious cloud could escape. "So, Ms. Kirby, did you say this runs on an AIX server?"

Our company peddles a giant finance tracking and control program that big corporations use because it makes them feel modernized. The system is so unwieldy that it takes a team of specialists to properly configure all the servers, software, and users. So I'm sent to the companies that need help with this. My job is to drag this out for a few months and then move on to the next one.

I nodded, glad to see Tulley snubbed, but only a little bit more interested in my own recitation. "That's right. The GUI that your users will see is a Windows app, of course, but the server technology is Unix-based."

We droned back and forth for a while longer, then concluded the interview. Tulley called the office on his cell phone to let them know that he had this one in the bag. I pushed off his offer of dinner (no doubt sitting at the bar, where he could smoke freely and exchange platitudes with others of his kind) saying I didn't feel well, and went back to the hotel.

I really had been feeling kind of sick. Beneath the ordinary wear of the workday there was an indefinable, almost painful urgency, like a sneeze that won't come. I could imagine every step grinding my feet further into deformity. My earrings seemed to be grotesquely stretching my earlobes, getting heavier every second. My underwear squirmed of its own volition, apparently even less comfortable than I was. My makeup felt like house paint. This was not a new experience. Lately, more and more of my days had been coming to this.

As I reached my door and got out the key, I tried to remember if I had packed any good lounging clothes. I was having trouble picturing anything that I packed. Or for that matter -

I opened the door and forgot all about sweat suits and pajamas. The room was much bigger than I remembered, and the furniture was gone. Cinnamon-scented smoke rolled into my face, rising from eight brass censers along the walls. Besides being conspicuously large, the room was also -

No, that was wrong. There was a strange optical effect. Maybe it was the symbols scratched along the walls and into the floor. The room had appeared to be round when I first looked, and the useless little hotel terrace outside seemed to be a wide porch wrapped impossibly around its whole circumference. After only a moment's glance, the effect was gone.

It was just a small squarish hotel room. Inscribed within the square of the room was a diamond. Three concentric circles were inscribed within that. The symbols were mostly around the borders of these forms. They looked like Hebrew or Arabic letters. The censers were in the corners and at the midpoint of each side of the room.

As the false image was ripped from behind my eyes, a sick, weightless sensation took its place. I stumbled, turning my ankle and falling backwards into the hallway. My shoe kicked itself off into the room. I clambered halfway up and reached for the treacherous piece of footwear. As I leaned forward, I saw something move on the terrace...

Copyright 2001 R. Christina Lea. All rights reserved. CLICK HERE to return.